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The Fifth Republican Debate: Winners and Losers

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On Tuesday night, the top nine GOP front runners gathered to have the last debate of the year and the last debate before the primaries begin. Here’s a recap of the winners and losers from yesterday’s debate:

Winners:

  • Ted Cruz. Cruz has been polling well in Iowa and his effort to sway some of Trump’s support base to his cause has been fairly successful. It’s worthy of note that every candidate to ever attack Trump has taken a nosedive in the polls (think Kasich, Fiorina, Bush, and Carson), and Ted Cruz has certainly learned from their mistake of believing Trump is a side show. Cruz had a strong performance and was able to contrast himself from Rubio, with whom tensions have begun to erupt, as well as piggyback off of the libertarian base Paul spearheads.
  • Chris Christie. Christie was able to portray himself as the executive who can “get things done” in a way that mimics Trump, and that means it ought to be a pretty good strategy. His continued repetition of his credentials as a formal federal prosecutor, who dealt with security threats as an executive following 9/11, contrasted sharply with the Senatorial policy debate of Cruz and Rubio.
  • Rand Paul. Paul was able to shine today despite falling in the polls, and got a good deal of airtime, during which he disseminated his libertarian ideas. He took on Trump, and at face value he won; however, again, everyone who tries to stump Trump gets trumped. On another point, his rhetoric, which is libertarian by nature and can appeal to many young voters who are social liberals and fiscal conservatives, is not likely to sway old people, and old people hold great sway in elections because they vote much more than their younger fellow citizens.

People who did alright:

  • Ben Carson. Carson’s unwonted parallels between removing a tumor after which a child thanks him and bombing civilians (after which dead civilians are implied to be inclined to thank him) didn’t do much to reassure voters who felt he had a weak stance on national security, which accounts for his fall into 4th place in recent polls. Nor did Carson receive much airtime.
  • Kasich. Despite annoying the audience and annoying voters with his incessant appeals to his only three achievements in his career (balancing the budget twice and lowering taxes) and never bothering to shut his mouth in regards to his beloved state of Ohio, Kasich was tough on Assad and continued to bash Trump (then again, this can be seen as a defeat).
  • Donald Trump. Many will be inclined to say that he bulldozed his way through the debate and didn’t say much of merit, but his manipulative tactics are unquestionably successful. His curt, terse phrases, with their low cognitive load and 4th grade reading level, draw in older voters who are the key to elections. Backstage, Trump took off his tough negotiator persona and referred back to how he acts around the press when he isn’t supposed to be a presidential competitor: cool, polite, and sophisticated, using a vocabulary magnitudes of complexity above that which he uses onstage. If nothing he has said so far has shaken his steadfast support, this will not either, and his libertarian stance on foreign policy might steal some votes from Cruz and even Paul.

Losers:

  • Marco Rubio. Rubio was taken to town by fellow senator Ted Cruz, who took issue with Rubio’s weak voting record on immigration, a point vocally echoed by Rand Paul. His difficulties in dealing with immigration translated into weakness in terms of national security when he failed to stand up for borders, which contrasts his attempts to portray himself as the “national security” guy. He’s fallen into a schism between himself and Ted Cruz, which reflects the schism between the establishment and the outsider/libertarian flank of the party that is growing in strength.
  • Jeb Bush. To quote Trump, Jeb is “low energy”. His attempts to appeal to voters as a “reasonable” or “serious” candidate were generally futile because, to be frank, he is boring and archetypal. He’s a neocon who’s desperately trying to stay relevant in an age where his beliefs are dying out, and his attempts to sound like the voice of reason were drowned out by the largely more reasonable, libertarian beliefs of Paul and Cruz as well as the brash nature of Trump. People might say Jeb beat Trump last night, but Trump is unstumpable, and Jeb will likely fall even more in the polls. It’s a surprise he’s still in fifth.
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Gabe Geytsman, Assistant Senior Editor

This senior somehow ended up being Assistant Senior Editor. Gabe formerly held the post of Political Analyst in his junior and sophomore years. He enjoys...

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The Fifth Republican Debate: Winners and Losers